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City Council: Scale back ice arena’s $9.7 million to $11 million proposal

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Don’t expect an aerobics room, a video arcade, extra shower rooms and upstairs office space for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department in the planned renovation and expansion of the Watertown Municipal Arena.

On Monday night, the Watertown City Council informally agreed those kinds of amenities are not needed and the city cannot afford them if it proceeds with redoing the ice arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Last week, the city released a 116-page preliminary design report by Stantec Consulting Services, Rochester, that proposed three options with costs ranging from $9.7 million to $11.1 million, depending on the amenities included and how the space is configured in the facility. Several years ago, the renovations were projected to cost about $3.6 million.

The Stantec study cost $99,700.

During Monday’s hour-long work session, Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said Stantec must scale back the project.

“I don’t think we can afford that,” said Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr.

Instead of including all of those amenities, they instructed City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner to focus on a project with a new roof, replacing the fire suppression system, adding locker rooms and restrooms, improving interior lighting and repairing the concrete floor. Three parking lots also would be added.

For years, council members have said the upgrade of the 40-year-old, 47,000-square-foot arena was needed, especially since it has a persistently leaky roof. Building a new arena would cost between $13 million and $23.4 million, Mr. Hauk said.

While his colleagues seemed to be alarmed by the costs, Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith reminded them that the project has been discussed for more 10 years and finally needs to be completed.

“I look at it as an investment in the future,” said Mr. Smith, whose sons are involved in youth hockey at the facility.

All three options involve adding two-story wings on the front and back of the building; a glassed-in mezzanine from which hockey games could be viewed; expanding the front to include a new lobby; creating more space for the concession stand; and putting in more restrooms. The additions would include office space and multipurpose rooms.

While he liked the concept, Mr. Hauk said he was not sure how it could be achieved without adding an elevator for handicapped accessibility. He estimated the roof replacement and repairing the building’s trusses would cost about $1 million.

Before the discussion, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he wanted council members to have a chance to discuss the report to get their input.

Emphasizing that it was just a preliminary report, Mr. Hauk said representatives from Stantec will attend a work session next month to discuss the project with the City Council.

“There’s a lot of things in here we didn’t require,” Mrs. Gardner said.

Further design work would be completed by March and the project would go out to bid early next winter, with construction starting during the spring of 2015 and being completed the following fall, before the hockey season.

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